The Thursday collapse of the border security plan offer by the House Republican leadership was a triumph for conservatives in the House GOP caucus, who see it as a high point in their troubled relationship with House Speaker John A. Boehner and his more centrist leadership team.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), one of those conservatives, described the retreat by Boehner (Ohio) as one of the highlights of her career, because the leadership was forced to mostly capitulate to the conservative demands.
“Leadership knew they couldn’t pass their bill,” Bachmann said, and as a result were forced to agree to revisions offered by tea party members, led by Steve King (R-Iowa).
“We sat down in that room last night, HC 8, in the Capitol, and it went as smooth as silk. Steve laid it out and in less than two hours we worked it out,” Bachmann said. “It was really a painless process. But it was the first time that I’ve seen leadership recognize, with respect and admiration, the work that Steve King did. Steve helped to completely gut this bill.”
By Friday the insurgents were feeling bullish. Bachmann and King (R-Iowa) later walked together across the Capitol for a meeting with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who has clashed with House GOP leaders on border issues. When asked whether they could potentially vote against the revised plan at the eleventh hour, both praised the new proposal and pledged to support it.
Under the latest plan, Republicans would pass two separate bills by Friday evening. The first would approve $659 million in additional funding for federal agencies dealing with the influx of immigrants — a sum far lower than President Obama’s original $3.7 billion request. It would also provide $35 million to border-state governors, who would be given broader legal authority to deploy the National Guard.
The second would curtail a Obama administration program that provides protections to about 500,000 immigrants who were brought to the country as children.
Bachmann, who will retire from Congress after this term, said that the leadership’s willingness to engage with the House’s conservative flank on Thursday night at that private gathering at the Capitol was startling and appreciated—a moment she said that stands out as the rare occasion when the House leadership took direct cues from her and King.
“They recognized that this vote just wasn’t going to happen,” Bachmann said. “Steve wrote the comprehensive solution and the leadership pieced it together from his framework. They were willing, unbelievably and painlessly, to incorporate all of those changes and now we have this bill.”